Thursday, February 19, 2009

Small talk, smack talk

I've never been a very good small talker. I'm usually task-oriented, focused on whatever I'm doing at the time, and can't work up the proper amount of enthusiasm to shoot the breeze with a perfect stranger at the grocery store or post office.

At parties, I usually just stick by My Man. I prefer intimate get-togethers, without the hassle of guests I don't know and the inevitable, "so, crazy weather we're having, eh?" Weddings are an absolute nightmare.

But Brazilians are Kings of the Small Talk realm, and I've gotten quite good at it. I can now talk anything from religion to politics for at least five minutes without offending anyone. Quite a talent, if I do say so myself.

Yet despite my newly found gift, my loathing of all things chit chat as only grown. Because it's the SAME FREAKING CONVERSATION EVERY TIME:
  • Oh, wow, you're AMERICAN?
  • Do you speak English?
  • Was it hard to learn Portuguese?
  • English is harder to learn, huh?
  • Do your kids speak?
  • You like Brazil better than the State, huh?
  • Are you glad Bush is gone?

If you've been around a while, you know that I've complained written about this before. But I can't help it. I cannot go out in public without answering the same questions.

Yes, yes, yes, no, yes, can't-answer-that-question, surewhatever.

It's gotten to the point that I avoid going to public places. As soon as the question of my nationality comes up, all feelings of good will toward my fellow man dry up instantaneously. I become a clam, determined to get the heck out of there as soon as possible. Or I convienently forget Portuguese.

So I was particularly impressed with my little brother this past week. (He left yesterday.) He grinned and nodded with the best of them, introducing himself and being introduced to people who hadn't a clue what he was saying. He even agreed to host a Priest/Laurel party at our house last Friday night (girls and boys ages 16 and 17 from our church.) Despite being unable to communicate, he was the life of the party - teaching us THE most hilarious games and even doing an unforgettable Michael Jackson impression. He will go down in history as The Coolest American Ever.

And it occurs to me that small talk and first impressions are almost entirely non-verbal. It is all in how the person holds his mouth, his hands ... body language, people.

And that's not a language I'm very fluent in, I guess.


Erin said...

I bet it was fun having the life of the party visiting you for a few days. I wonder what sort of questions I might get when I'm in France?

Lara said...

I'm horrible at small talk, too. I guess I just like to jump into the deep stuff. Who wants to talk about the weather anyway? Or whether or not you speak English?

Abra said...

Small Talk is a gift, I don't possess that gift. I would much rather hang out in the kitchen, bringing out food than in the hubbub of the party mingling. I watch people who can do that with the utmost respect and admiration. They truly have a great talent I think!

Heather of the EO said...

Another bad small-talker here. And I'm pretty sure my body language around strangers screams UPTIGHT. Dang.

Lady of Perpetual Chaos said...

Whenever we go out in public I have to explain, many many times, where exactly my girls get their red hair. I'm now trying to decide if I just want to dye my hair red (totally cool but a lot of upkeep) or just make 7 shirts that say "they get the red hair from both sides of the family" and wear one every day. Maybe I should put it to a vote on my blog....

elesa said...

I'm with you on the small talk thing. I live in mortal fear of awkwardness, small talk is the worst!

Kristina P. said...

93% of all communication is non-verbal. I only know that because I teach a lesson on communication to at-risk youth and we talk about that a lot.

Boy Mom said...

I read three or four posts so this comment may be a little convoluted.

So jealous of the beach vacation, I just love the beach especially with little boys and cute big ones of course. I agree though it takes three times as long to clean up as the vacation lasted.

My Adorable Hubby is taking the Marriage Relations class. Such a great idea, love your points.

Small talk is my nemesis as well. I wish I could take a course in successful small talk.

Love reading your blog!

Brooke said...

I stink at small talk. I think I come across as stuck-up because I'm so uncomfortable. I don't mean to. I just hate it.

Kazzy said...

I love the idea that first impressions are mostly non-verbal. It intrigues me. I enjoy both the smaller group with close friends AND the big shindig. I think I may suffer from social animalism!

Jen said...

This reminds me of attending dances at Ricks college. Where are you from/What's your major. Ditto, ditto, ditto, from EVERY SINGLE person you dance with.

For two and a half years.

I can only imagine if this irritation also persisted at the grocery store and the bank. Yeesh.

nikkicrumpet said...

Well if you can talk politics for 5 minutes and not offend anyone...then you are my hero! I speak a full sentence about politics here...and I have people trying to stone me lol. I love that your brother could entertain everyone without speaking their language...he sounds like quite a guy!

janae said...

I love when people ask me things like "English is harder to learn, huh?" Uhhh ... well, in case you think we Americans are different than the rest of the world, we learn English as babies so I really couldn't tell you if it was hard. I just learned it. How could I compare which is harder??

Mommadj5 said...

I don't know about your "lack" of body language skills - your beach pictures speak volumes! And your beautiful eyes give away your emotions - everyone around you knows what you are feeling! Whadcha think bloggers? Look back at her pics, don't you agree? (although I totally get what you are saying....)Love you.

Rachel said...

You know, I can't say I've been in your situation, but really I hate the small talk too.